A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is filed in Supreme Court (SC) seeking formation of a uniform policy for giving financial assistance to lawyers in times of emergencies, like COVID-19 and others in future.
Mr. Abhinav Ramkrishna, Advocate and Executive Member of Supreme Court on Record Association filed the petition pointing that Lawyers across the nation have been paying welfare amounts on filing Vakalatnama each time they enter appearance (a substantial amount of welfare stamp is affixed with vakalatnama). It drew the attention of the court towards various welfare schemes announced by several State Bar Councils for providing financial assistance to distressed lawyers. It was found that these schemes are extremely variant in nature. It prescribed certain classifications for extending financial assistance such as years of practice, age, and non-extension of benefit to those who are accessible to income tax, etc. The petitioner stated that all such classifications are ultra vires the Constitution.
The PIL stated that the government, “which is primarily responsible for the effective establishment of the judicial set up in this country”, has “remained a mute spectator over the trouble being faced by the lawyers”. Petitioner has urged SC to direct Central Government to form a ‘Uniform National Level Scheme’ under Advocates’ Welfare Fund Act 2001, to deal with the present unprecedented situation and other similar situation if arises in future.
Some of questions laid down by the petitioner are:
The petitioner has questioned the reasonableness of classifications such as years of standing at bar or filing of income tax returns as a basis for providing financial assistance by citing examples of various State Bar Councils. Citing the example of Karnataka State Bar Council which decided to grant ‘interest-free loan’, the petition contended that giving the color of debt/loan to the amount given under welfare scheme during national crises is not only against the objective of any welfare act but is like ensuing an insult upon a needy lawyer.